Friday, 3 July 2009

Strawberries From the Perigord – and the Scots Clan of Frazer

The tiny wild strawberry or fraise des bois graced the gardens of Louis XIV in the late 17th century which probably originated in the Alps. Its intoxicating fragrance gave its Latin name - fragum - meaning fragrance. However the strawberries that we know today are descended from the little wild one and one from the New World. The New World variety was actually discovered by a Frenchman with a strawberry connection in his distant past. In 1713, the Marine Officer Amédée François Frezier returned from a voyage to Chile in the 18th century with strawberry plants (fragaria chiloensis, the Beach Strawberry), in the hold of his boat.

Frézier wrote that in Chile: "One there cultivates entire fields of a type of strawberry different than ours by their rounder leaves, fleshier and with strong runners. Its fruit are ordinarily big as whole nut, and sometimes as a small egg. They are of a red whitish colour and a little less delicate to the taste that our wood strawberries."

Frézier was a French military engineer, mathematician, spy, and explorer whose ancient surname was derived from fraise, the French word for strawberry. A story relates the surname is derived from the fact that Julius de Berry, a citizen of Auvers, was knighted by Charles the Simple in 916 for a timely gift of ripe strawberries. The Emperor gave the Fraise family (the surname was corrupted as "Frazer") three fraises or strawberry flowers for their coat of arms.

Members of the Frazer family emigrated to Scotland as members of the retinue of the French ambassador, who had been sent by Henry I of France as a gesture of friendship to Malcolm III of Scotland, the vanquisher of Macbeth. For the services against the invading Danes, King Máel Coluim rewarded the Frazers with grants of land and a coat of arms – which contained the original crest of three strawberries. The Chief of the Clan of Frazer has the traditional three strawberry flowers on his arms today.

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